Turkish mine disaster town under lockdown, death toll rises to 301

Turkish mine disaster town under lockdown, death toll rises to 301

SOMA, Turkey - Turkish police put the mining town of Soma on virtual lockdown on Saturday, setting up checkpoints and detaining dozens of people to enforce a ban on protests as rescue efforts following the country's worst industrial disaster ended.

The last two bodies of workers thought still to have been left in the mine were carried out four days after a fire sent deadly carbon monoxide through it. That brought the death toll to 301, Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said.

Hundreds of riot police patrolled the streets while others checked identity cards at three checkpoints on the approach road to Soma, a Reuters witness said. The local governor banned protests in response to clashes a day earlier between police and several thousand demonstrators.

Eight lawyers from the Contemporary Jurists Association, including its leader, were handcuffed and detained during the lockdown on suspicion that they had gone to the town to take part in more protests, the private Dogan news agency reported.

A total of 36 people were arrested and taken to a sports centre in the town where they chanted: "the pressure cannot intimidate us", the agency said. The number of detentions could not immediately be confirmed.

Tuesday's disaster has triggered protests across Turkey, aimed at mine owners accused of ignoring safety for profit, and at Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's government, seen as too close to industry bosses and insensitive in its response.

Erdogan has presided over a decade of rapid economic growth

but worker safety standards have failed to keep pace, leaving Turkey with one of the world's worst industrial accident records. The plant manager denied any negligence at the mine which was inspected by state officials every six months.

Demonstrators clashed with police in the western port city of Izmir overnight, some setting up makeshift barricades and throwing stones and fireworks aimed at the police, Hurriyet newspaper reported. Some 40 people were detained.

There were also protests in Istanbul. Some residents in the city banged pots and pans from their windows, an act which was a feature of last summer's nationwide anti-government unrest.

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